Playing cards in the dark

In light of Ted Stevens' indictment, CAP has been good enough to repost the column that we did about it here.

The return of Stephen Glass, continued:

It is my lot in life, apparently, to do The New Republic's job for it, and so I attempted to determine whether there could possibly be any justification for the allegations it printed on its website regarding my views (and those of Matt Yglesias, Ezra Klein and the organization, “J Street,” ) printed here, and already discussed and debunked here and here -- and here. Rep. Robert Wexler was apparently happy to accept the endorsement following TNR's “report” authored by Marty Peretz's personal assistant, Jamie Kirchick, that “I guarantee that neither representative [Wexler and Barney Frank] will be accepting a J Street endorsement this fall.”

Aside from this false and foolish “guarantee” regarding Wexler, which was clearly unjustifiable by any standard, the only argument I could even imagine for the rest of the post -- he wrote: “The attempt by people like Ben-Ami, Alterman, Yglesias, Klein to portray their advocacy of unconditional Israeli negotiations with Iran and Hamas, unconditional Israeli territorial concessions, the Palestinian 'right of return,' (among other extreme positions) as having any truck within the mainstream of Jewish, American or Israeli opinion, while also having the gall to allege that anyone remotely to their right is an extremist, is something that psychologists call 'projection.' ”

Without any evidence that any one of us had ever said or written such a thing -- and I sure as hell have said and written none of it -- Kirchick further assumes:

a) J Street is on record supporting these positions.

b) Those individuals who lend their names in support of the organization by agreeing to be listed among its Advisory Council can be fairly held responsible for each and every one of the organization's endorsed positions.

For Kirchick/TNR to be correct, both assumptions would need to be correct. In fact, surprise, surprise, both are false. Jeremy Ben-Ami, the founder and executive director of J Street, sent me the following email yesterday (while on vacation):


The Kirchick piece is so filled with misstatements it's really criminal.

Of course “unconditional negotiations with Hamas and Ahmadinejad” are not part of J Street's policies.

On Iran, we are urging active and aggressive US engagement with Iran -- through the multiparty talks that are taking place (and, lo and behold, Bill Burns did take part last week) -- as well as exploration of all possible political openings in the Iranian political world. We have always made it clear that Ahmadinejad is not the right address for diplomatic feelers to Iran. There are many other players including the new Speaker of the Parliament and of course the Supreme Leader.

On Hamas, our position is the following: We support (as do 64% of Israelis) Israel's negotiation of a cease fire with Hamas in Gaza. We support the exploration by third parties and other nongovernmental actors of openings from Hamas and potential rifts within its leadership between extreme elements and possibly more moderate voices. That is a far cry from backing official US government negotiation with Hamas prior to its renunciation of violence and terror and its acceptance of Israel.

We don't back unconditional territorial concessions by Israel. We are in favor of territorial concessions in the context of land-for-peace deals with the Syrians and the Palestinians. In fact, it's been the unconditional and unilateral withdrawals (Gaza, Lebanon) that have created instability and the negotiated peace treaties (Egypt and Jordan) that have held.

We don't support the Palestinian right of return to Israel. We believe there should be two states for two peoples -- and Palestinian refugees should be resettled in the state of Palestine.

So on all counts -- every time that Kirchick purports to state what J Street stands for he -- quite simply -- lies.

And there is no assumption that members of the Advisory Council agree with our policy positions -- just as there is no requirement that the candidates we endorse agree with all our positions.

Hope this helps clarify ... let me know if you have other questions ...


I try to escape, but they pull me back. Update: I see that Kirchick, again without adult supervision, has returned with more lies and slander in his own defense here.

I can't spend my entire life doing TNR's fact-checking for it (a job, by the way, that Andrew Sullivan originally chose Stephen Glass to head up). I do need to point out, yet again, to this punk that I never have and never would ever make fun of Andrew Sullivan's HIV status.

This is really beyond the pale and should earn this creep a good shunning in polite society everywhere. When Andrew misrepresented something I wrote in order to --I kid you not -- call me a traitor and compare me to the author of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, I offered to bet him $10,000 to be given to the AIDS organization of either one of our choices -- if he could prove his allegation. I picked AIDS organizations because I was at the time, and still should be, obsessed with the problem of AIDS in Africa and had written about it all that week. I added that I thought it would be appropriate for Andrew because it is cause close to his heart given that, as I said in the post Kirchick cites, he “is HIV positive and likes to discuss this fact with reporters.” I included the “reporters” comment lest anyone unfamiliar imagine that I was outing Andrew. I was not and would never do that.

And in fact, I never wrote a word when Andrew's personal life became tabloid fodder. How people whose name appears on TNR's masthead can allow themselves to be associated with this McCarthyite slander is beyond me, but there it is.

P.S. And my goodness. Have you ever heard anything richer in your entire life than the claim -- from someone at TNR -- that it is “perfectly fair” to hold a person listed on an advisory board to all positions claimed by the organization? Leave aside the fact that Kirchick is lying about the positions the organizations actually holds. Imagine holding anyone in the world responsible for ALL of the positions associated with The New Republic. He (this is TNR, after all) would have to torture and then shoot himself.

How smug, self-referential and contentless is our media coverage of the presidential race? This from Today's Note is, pathetically, par for the course:

Some of the most interesting looking centers on Obama: Secret meetings, a bizarrely vague public schedule, sit-downs with the Fed chairman and the new Pakistani prime minister, all after a heralded foreign trip?

You might say he's measuring the drapes -- but that assumes he hasn't ordered new windows.

The latest entry in the (bulging) Obama files: “This is the moment . . . that the world is waiting for,” he told House Democrats Tuesday night, per The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman. “I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions.”

(Read that sentence again, and try to imagine how it would look if it was said on camera.)

Obama may be right (and if he is, he wins) -- but the first person singular is the most dangerous of tenses, particularly when the meme is being set. Toss in a jettisoned faux-presidential seal, a canceled visit with troops, maybe a sprinkling of broken promises, and you've got enough to weave an uncomfortable yet unforgettable suit.

With a public schedule that “would have made Dick Cheney envious,” this is Obama going from presumptive to presumptuous, Dana Milbank writes in his Washington Post column.

“Some say the supremely confident Obama -- nearly 100 days from the election, he pronounces that 'the odds of us winning are very good' -- has become a president-in-waiting,” Milbank writes. “But in truth, he doesn't need to wait: He has already amassed the trappings of the office, without those pesky decisions.”

(If you don't think the hype is contagious, check out the newspaper headlines over Patti Solis Doyle's shoulder in this photo -- and remember that Solis Doyle once managed Hillary Clinton's campaign.)

From Obama's perspective, it's not bad work if you can get it -- except McCain is using those very symbols to try to take it away from him. (It's in full techno-music glory in the RNC's new Web ad.)

This is fun to make fun of, sure (and the world can always use an extra Hasselhoff reference).

What clever boys the media bigfeet be.

But wait, it gets better.

If you were a bigtime New York Times columnist and were traveling with Obama to and from Europe and got a chance to talk to him on the press plane, what would you ask him in the hopes of informing your readers as to what might help them determine their votes? Give up? “I asked him what presents he takes home to his daughters.” Here.

FYI, felicitations to the LA City Council for this. Over at Brooklyn College, a largely minority residential area, there is literally no place to eat whatever save horrible, unhealthy, anti-environmental fast-food crap -- and no supermarkets. How in the world are people supposed to eat healthily, teach their children good nutritional habits and support sustainable agriculture under such circumstances? This is capitalism at its most predatory, and it is exactly why and how we need government to step in.

From Eric Boehlert:

When the GOP plays hardball with the press, journalists tough it out and consider it the cost of doing battle in the Beltway. But when Democrats play hardball, or what's perceived to be hardball, reporters consider the jousting to be some sort of personal attack and rush to complain to colleagues how nasty the Dems are behaving. In other words, Obama, don't hurt Adam Nagourney's feelings. Read more here.

From TomDispatch:

“While the Iraq war has largely faded from our TV screens, some 85% of all voters still call it an important issue. Most of them want U.S. troops home from Iraq within a couple of years, many of them far sooner. They support Barack Obama's position, not John McCain's. Yet when the polls ask which candidate voters trust more on the war, McCain wins almost every time.” Thus does Ira Chernus, professor of religious studies and canny TomDispatch regular, begin a fascinating exploration of the strange world of American electoral politics. Chernus concludes:

For the foreseeable future, debates about cultural values are going to be played out fiercely on the symbolic terrain of war and national security issues. The all-too-real battlefields abroad will remain obscured by the cultural battlefields at home and by the those timeless “ordinary American values” embedded in the public's imagination. It's all too powerful a myth -- and too good an election story -- to go away anytime soon.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Beth Harrison

Hometown: Arlington, VA

Eric, I spent both yesterday and today reading the DOJ IG's report on the antics of Monica Goodling. I am beyond disgusted. I want to know: where were the career people? It's their job to tell politicals like Monica “NO.” The career people failed in their duty, completely and totally. One of the few people who stood up to Monica was the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. He wanted to hire a qualified prosecutor. Monica wanted to “save” that spot for some poor Hill staffer who lost their job after the Republicans lost in 2006. I don't know about you, Eric, but I want highly qualified, experienced prosecutors. What someone's spouse does for a living (managing Democratic campaigns) should have NOTHING to do in a career position. Frankly, I don't know how DOJ can recover from the Age of Monica other than firing all career attorneys who owe their position to her.

Thanks Ralph!

Name: Sean
Hometown: Peoria, IL

Dr. A,

This article by CNN seems a bit disingenuous don't you think. I mean the statement, “lobbyists and trade groups donated $181,000 to McCain, while Obama received $6,000, according to the New York Times” completely misses the point of general influence lobbyists may have in terms of money over individual officials. That $6,000 might as well be zero in terms of influence. Additionally, it tries to paint Obama with the same brush as the Democratic Party in general (Obama has no say who other party members take money from) by saying, “lobbyists reported contributions of $4.7 million to Democrats and $3.3 million to Republicans.”

Wouldn't it be also important to note the relative likelihood that one candidate will take lobbyist money over another? By my calculation, the article should be titled, “McCain 30 times more likely to take money from lobbyists than Obama.”

Name: Robert Hawks
Hometown: Carpentersville, Illinois

My brain bubbles nightly watching Matthews and Company rail on and on how Obama's continuing 5-7 pt lead spells doom for him, asking “Why can't Obama gain any traction?” rather than “Why is McCain getting chewed up like a stray dog?” I look forward to election night:

MATTHEWS: By carrying only 32 states and their 324 electoral votes, things must be pretty grim tonight at Obama HQ. Andrea Mitchell, despite millions of dollars and a fawning press, it seems as if Obama was just plain unable to get ALL the voters to vote for him. Why not? What's the mood over there tonight?

MITCHELL: Well, Chris, the mood is absolute complete denial over here and it's not difficult to see why. Although owing to constitutional technicalities Barack Obama is the president-elect and will be sworn in next January, it's difficult to see how anyone can call this a victory with so many millions of Americans standing up to say no, we're just not sure.

MATTHEWS: Not much of a mandate.

MITCHELL: Clearly not, and if you're John McCain you've got to be feeling pretty good going forward from here.


Name: Bill Skeels
Hometown: Raleigh

“Not everything that is morally just or intellectually respectable is a good idea. This is one of those, alas ...”

You are exactly correct here; there are so many reasons why prosecution is not a good idea in this situation, even where well deserved.

Few if any such problems exist for disbarment hearings; a license to practice law is a privilege, not a right, and one does not have to commit a crime to lose that right. Bonus? The President has no pardon power over it.

Addington, Yoo, Gonzales and so many more have eroded fundamentals of our legal system in any number of ways, including simply and obviously establishing results-driven legal briefs and findings to serve the President's goal, not the interests of the nation. They are an embarrassment to the legal system.

For context, let's recall that Bill Clinton had his law license suspended for five years. We might, then, call five years a “Clinton Unit,” as in the sentence “Yoo deserves a suspension of 3 Clinton Units for unlawfully enabling the legal approval for torture.”

That would qualify as a good idea.

Name: Brian Geving
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN


When I first heard about the church shooting on Sunday and that the gunman targeted a Unitarian church, my first thought was that the church was targeted because of its support for GLBT rights. Gays and lesbians have been targeted by gunmen like this for a long time, and it only made sense that this hatred would eventually target our supporters as well. I'm sad to say that I was not far off the mark, as it now turns out he targeted the church because of its liberal views on other issues as well as GLBT rights. This brings me to a topic that I think the media is missing in this tragedy; the effects of hate speech on disturbed individuals like this gunman.

The recent reports from the media are reporting that right-wing books by well-known authors Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage and Sean Hannity inside the gunman's house. These authors are some of the worst at demonizing liberals and it isn't hard to see how a disturbed person could be influenced by these books or their radio shows. By making liberals seem less-than-human, it is all too easy for someone to think that he has the solution to the country's problems. This is a pattern that is very familiar to those of us in the GLBT community, as we've had to put up with this hate-speech from people like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson for decades. This invariably results in violence, with the perpetrators always saying that they were doing God's work as they beat one of God's children to a pulp.

The question is, when do we say enough's enough? When will we challenge this hate-speech and call it what it is? The media isn't doing so. Until we do, I fear that the people who died on Sunday won't be the last. Unfortunately, there are too many conservatives infected with the same type of self-righteous mentality as those targeting the GLBT community.

Name: Bob Thena
Hometown: Easton PA

As someone who has a collection numbering over 2500 comics dating from the 1940s to the present, I can guarantee that it is possible to grow up and still read comics ... the difference is that I know the stories aren't real.

As shown by Bush's romancing about the joys of live combat to soldiers who have been there, conservatives are the boys who never figured that out and will never grow up.

It should come to no surprise that a conservative would compare Bush to a comic book character. After all, it was Rush Limbaugh who declared that since “24” was the number one show on the television, Americans approved of torture.

Name: Judy Hochberg
Hometown: Scarsdale


I saw Springsteen in Madrid. He was awesome. What I loved were the Spanish touches -- he greeted the crowd in good Castellano, congratulated them on Spain's winning the World Cup (if I have that right), and at one point borrowed a lady's fan to cool himself off. I was standing on the floor near the stage, surrounded by rabid fans who knew all the lyrics to old songs and new, though I don't know if they understood them! I'd never seen Bruce before in another country and it was an experience I'd recommend

Eric replies: Hi, Judy. Not sure if I ever congratulated you on that Salutatorian thing. Way to go on the good grades, girl. And while we're on the topic of SHS '78, congrats to me and Petey for celebrating 30 years of seeing Bruce together tomorrow night at Giants Stadium. (Sorry Greenie, I only had a pair.)

Name: Stephen Carver
Hometown: Los Angeles

Dr. A,

I was reading the latest installment of Altercation when the earth began to move under my feet (initially magnitude 5.8, reduced to 5.4).

If that's not love, I don't know what is. Thanks for your continuing great work.

Eric replies: Happens only three times in life, I'm told.